QWhy did God make Moses and the Israelites wander for 40 long years?
A: This is a very good question, for if you look at the map of the Holy Land, the shortest distance from Egypt to the Promised Land of Israel should not take 40 years, even by camel. However, there are at least a couple of reasons why the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 long years.
Despite the number of times that God saved the people – from the time they left Egypt through the challenges en route to the desert of the Arabian Peninsula, the people continued to be, as the Bible says, “stiffed-necked people” in which they were not just ungrateful to God, but also even failed to follow him at times. Therefore, God would not allow most of their generation to enter the Promised Land, but instead for their children and grandchildren to inherit the land. Psalm 95 does a pretty good job in explaining that.

Secondly, had the Israelites gone straight from Egypt to the Promised Land, they would have given themselves credit for inheriting the land instead of giving the credit where it was due, and that is God.

Also, by traveling there they may have been afraid of the armies they would have had to engage on the way to the Promised Land and could be discouraged and thus decide not to travel to the land promised Abraham (yes, I know, I have just provided you with a third reason).

The lesson we must learn regarding the 40 years in the desert is that God will never leave us and we must always permit him to lead us on our way, for all our faith and trust must be in him.

QHow do you know for sure that you are going to Heaven?

A: Eternal Life with God is a definite possibility, for Jesus Christ, through his Suffering, Death, Resurrection and Ascension to the Father has made it so (this is called the Paschal Mystery). However, God also has given us free will. In other words, you and I tell God where we would like to go by how we live our lives here and now.

Jesus wants all of us with him in heaven and you and I should be very grateful to him for his eternal gift. As for being certain whether or not you and I are going to heaven, we are instructed by Jesus that if we follow him and live our lives fittingly as ones imitating Jesus himself, then we will be with him for all eternity. We know for certain there is a heaven and Jesus wants us to be there with him. And so, together, let us live like Jesus and pray for one another and all of our families that we all will be together in heaven someday.

QIs there any particular reason that priests always wear black when not celebrating a Mass?

A: We often see priests wearing black, not to mention bishops wear black as well. Truth is, most often we are wearing black under our vestments when we are celebrating Mass. The color of the vestments indicates the time of the liturgical year. However, when the vestments come off, we are back in our black suits or our clerics which, more frequently than not, are black.

You will see me more often than not out in public wearing my black suit even if I am shopping at the grocery store or visiting the hardware store. My clerical suit indicates to others that I am a priest and, who knows, from time to time there are those who may stop me and ask for some spiritual assistance; even to hear their confession.

Of course I own other clothes as well, for I do not bike ride in my black suit, nor do I perform yard work in my black suit.  Those moments demand outdoor clothes that frequently get muddy and dirty.

The next time you see a priest in his collar, please do not hesitate to stop and say hello to him for he most certainly would be happy to assist you if you are in need.  Also, please pray for our priests, for I am so blessed to have the priests in our diocese both diocesan and religious order, as my fellow brothers. Our primary job is to enable you to become a saint and to get you to heaven.

May God bless you and your loved ones as we begin our Ohio Valley autumn, rich in the pageantry of color.

To “Ask the Bishop,” address questions to Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator in the Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools.

Address “As the Bishop” to Taylor at P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952; or email him at jtaylor@diosteub.org. Taylor also can be reached by telephoning the chancery, (740) 282-3631.